Authors: This is a collaborative/collab fanfiction between myself and Firebreath Fishslap. While she has her own account (firebreathfishslap is her username), the rules of the site only allow one author to upload a specific fic. She deserves as much credit as I do
Chapter 5: Discussion
Minato wanted to ask Yuugi if he needed help as the shorter teenager took slow, but determined, steps out of the alley. He couldn't blame his hesitation on Yuugi's determination. No, he blamed it on knowing Yuugi would accept any help offered. He blamed it on why he knew he would accept any help offered. How did you go about addressing someone from a television show? How did you go about treating a fictional person as a real one?
"Arisato-kun, did you come here by yourself?"
Yuugi's question pulled Minato out of his thoughts. The shorter teenager had made his way out of the alley, and he seemed at least a bit more stable than before. Relief touched Minato's features for a moment before he processed Yuugi's question. He broke eye contact with the other teenager by turning his head to look down the street.
Minato couldn't avoid catching Yuugi's expression out of his peripheral vision. The other teenager looked sorry for asking the question. Had his hesitation been that obvious? He didn't know how to feel about the grin Yuugi forced onto his face as he began to speak again, "We should look for that doctor. I mean, unless you already know where one is?"
Minato pointed down the street in the direction he'd been walking before he found Yuugi. It occurred to him that if he hadn't found Yuugi laying in that alley, it was possible he'd still be collapsed in the booth. He tried to silence his thoughts with a response to the shorter teenager. It didn't help.
"We can try that way."
Yuugi turned his head to follow Minato's finger. His eyes went crossed and he stumbled back, lifting a hand to his head. He lowered his hand and grimaced.
"I'm okay, really..." Yuugi mumbled.
Minato frowned at the spiky haired teenager's tone of voice. He sounded stubborn, like he was trying to convince someone of something. His mouth curved up in a weak smile that looked like it wanted but was unable to be more. Minato focused his attention back in the direction he had pointed when Yuugi turned his head toward him. Minato found himself wondering again about the golden triangle hanging from the other teenager's neck by a heavy chain.
"Arisato-kun, you said you know me from an anime...?"
Minato didn't want to know if his expression was as trapped as he felt. He nodded.
Yuugi locked eyes with him, "Then you know about my Other Self?"
Minato's breath caught. Did he know about Yuugi's 'Other Self'? The simple answer was yes, he knew about the Pharaoh. He even knew the Pharaoh's name. It was an odd reason to regret having not kept up with the series. The end of it had been in Egypt, right? Where Yuugi had said he'd been? He knew the first show better, and they'd never gone to Egypt in it. It was kind of a relief Yuugi probably wasn't from that version.
Minato started as Yuugi's voice brought him out of his thoughts. He looked down towards Yuugi and grimaced. This wasn't fiction. He couldn't think he knew Yuugi. He'd never met him. He wondered if he sounded as shaky to Yuugi as he did to himself, "...yeah. A... the Pharaoh, right?"
He switched tracks before he could make a larger fool out of himself than he already had. Didn't Yuugi lose the Puzzle at the end of the series? There was no way to know if he knew the Pharaoh's name yet.
Yuugi's smile became less forced and he let his shoulders drop, "...I'm glad."
Minato raised an eyebrow and his frown deepened, "Glad?"
"Yup! I mean..." Yuugi gave a nervous chuckle and rubbed his hand on the back of his head. Minato's eyes widened when he saw there was blood on it. That was the hand he'd brushed against his head earlier, wasn't it? The shorter teenager's shoulders rose in an awkward shrug, "It could have been hard, keeping him hidden since you seem to know me. He's worried about all of this too."
"We should get going to the doctor," Minato said. He hadn't known Yuugi was bleeding. Had the other teenager realized? "You're bleeding."
Yuugi's grin went back to looking forced as he pulled his hand from behind his head and brushed at a concealed area under his bangs. Minato realized that's where he'd been bleeding from. Yuugi's finger tips came down with no fresh blood, "I've been hurt worse, really. I think I was just in shock before."
Minato couldn't decide if Yuugi was telling the truth or putting on a brave face. Instead of arguing the point, he turned and began walking down the street. He was slowing down to make sure Yuugi was following him when the spiky haired teenager fell into step beside him. The smile didn't look forced anymore, and Minato found his frown flattening to his usual neutral expression despite himself.
K1 frowned to himself and pulled his head back into the alley. Souji had told him to wait while he made sure the way was clear, but it had already been five minutes. He flipped open his COMP and glanced at the clock for what he was sure was the tenth time in those five minutes. He wasn't going to wait much longer for Souji to return. This wasn't anyone's problem but his own, and hadn't he been told to not trust anyone? He scowled at himself. He was doing a fine job of it.
The blue haired teenager spun around at the voice. It clicked that it was only Souji returning from his scouting just before his thumb had pressed down on his COMP screen. He gave a choked breath and yanked his thumb from the screen. He snapped the device shut and shoved it in his back pocket. He'd almost summoned a demon on Souji. How would he have explained that?
"It's just K1," he said, allowing the harshness in his voice to mask his reaction, "The honorific sounds stupid on a nickname."
K1 met Souji's judging frown with a glare. Souji broke eye contact first, and pointed to the gym they were standing beside, "I think it's possible to get in without being seen if we're careful. As far as I can tell, the cameras have blind spots if you time your passage right."
K1 nodded. He pulled his COMP out of his pocket again, ignoring the odd look Souji gave him over it. They stood together in silence for a moment longer before Souji walked past him, gesturing for the shorter teenager to follow. A few steps later they came to a door with "EMPLOYEES ONLY" written on it in large English letters framed by the kana for the Japanese equivalent on the top and bottom. Souji opened it up and slipped inside with K1 on his heels.
He almost walked into Souji's outstretched hand several halls later. Souji spun his head around and gave K1 a criticizing glare. He had his mouth open to demand an explanation when a pair of girls walked past. K1's eyes widened and he looked towards Souji. He'd been so busy watching the other teenager and his COMP he hadn't been giving any attention to his surroundings.
"Try to keep your eyes open," Souji whispered. K1 grimaced at the lack of admonishment in Souji's tone.
They made it the rest of the way to the showers without incident. Souji stood on his toes to look over the top of the short shower cubicles before he reached over and pulled the curtain to the side. K1 blinked and looked over at Souji, who gestured inside. He glanced over his shoulder as K1 ducked in. The curtain dropped before K1 had a chance to turn around.
"I'm not concerned about what you do with the clothes, but it might be better for you to keep your electronics out here," Souji stated, "The water could damage them."
K1 had begun to peel off his shirt when Souji spoke up. He glanced to the side towards the bit of his headphones he could see from his peripheral vision. He dropped the shirt back down before framing each of the headphone's speakers in his fingers. He lifted them backwards and then up over his head. He put the damaged headphones in his right hand before unclipping the mp3 player from his shirt with the other.
"Could you watch these, then?" K1 asked. He pulled back the shower curtain and held them out to Souji, "Be careful, they're not in the best shape."
K1 didn't return Souji's inquisitive look with aggression this time, instead letting out a relieved sigh when Souji took them as gingerly as he'd been handling them. He was pulling back into the shower when Souji spoke again.
"What about your COMP?"
"I'll keep it in here with me. I can wrap it up with my shirt and put in in the corner. There's a bench attached to the wall in here, so it should keep it safe," K1 explained. He forced a smile. Souji's frown made it clear he wasn't buying it, "The COMP's in good shape, my headphone's aren't. They were a gift, okay? I just don't want to put them at risk."
K1 ducked back into the shower stall before Souji had a chance to argue. His face twisted as his shirt clung to his skin when he pulled it off. Blood, and not human, left discolored spots on his skin. He grimaced and held his shirt away from his body as far as it would go with just his pointer finger and thumb. He looked down at his pants and sighed, pulling his COMP out of his pocket. He folded the shirt around the system. The pants weren't any better, and it wasn't as if his COMP hadn't already been stained by demon blood.
The blue haired teenager looked up from the corner of the stall where he was tucking his shirt-wrapped COMP under the bench, "What?"
"Forgive the interruption, but don't you need soap?"
K1's eyes widened. He looked towards the soap shelf in the cubicle. Empty, as expected. He looked back towards the curtain, "You really don't have to worry about that..."
"Have you smelled yourself?"
K1 frowned at the response. It only deepened when he saw a bar of soap and a small tube of shampoo pushed under the curtain. He sighed and double checked his COMP would be secure before standing and stepping out of the rest of his clothes. He tossed them into the other bench covered corner with far less care than he'd given his shirt and COMP. He walked over to the soap and shampoo and grabbed them after a moment's consideration, "Thanks."
Souji didn't reply. He walked over to the soap shelf and put the stuff down before turning on the water. It wasn't as hot as he liked, but given what he'd been dealing with for hygiene solutions lately, he wasn't about to complain. He winced as he worked the shampoo into his hair. The sweat he'd been accumulating lately had made his scalp raw. The silence from the other side of the curtain began to weight down on K1, and he finally had to break it.
"You're not involved in this, so why are you helping me?" K1 asked.
"You looked like you needed someone to extend a hand," Souji replied.
"I've been through a lot," K1 replied. He dunked his head under the water to get the soap out of his hair. The water going down the drain at his feet was almost black from the accumulated grime being washed off his body. He closed his eyes to prevent the filthy water from getting into them. He wasn't sure why he was sharing this information with Souji. Trust no one. He didn't like being on his own, "You'd never believe me if I told you what I've been through. Hell, I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't been through it."
"You might be surprised," Souji replied, "Although if I had to guess by looking at you, I'd say you'd been caught in some kind of war."
K1 jerked up so fast that he hit the back of the shower head with his own head before he could catch himself. He bit off an expletive and grabbed the back of his head. He couldn't tell if blood had dampened his already soaked hair, so he had to lower his hand to check. No blood.
"K1, are you alright?"
"I'm fine!" K1 shouted. He drew his lips back at the volume of his own voice and double checked his head for blood. The result was the same. He sighed and snatched the shampoo bottle off the shelf, dumping it onto his head and working up a lather.
"Did I say something wrong?"
K1 grabbed the bar of soap this time, leaving his hair soaped up. Trust no one. He responded anyways, "I was just surprised at what you said. Some kind of war is about right. I just didn't think it would be that obvious."
"It was just a guess," Souji stated, "You look like a refugee."
"If only it was that simple," K1 muttered. He frowned and stopped scrubbing his chest. Trust no one. He shook his head and began scrubbing again as he continued the conversation, "I'm here because there's something here that could effect the outcome of the war. That's why I don't want you involved. It's not your fight."
"How are names important to that?"
Trust no one. K1 froze. Had he said too much?
"How do you know that?" K1 demanded. He heard the low growl in his voice as he spoke, and didn't care. If Souji was a threat he had to show he wasn't a pushover.
"You demanded my name when we met," Souji said. There was no indication K1 could hear that Souji had understood his warning, "And you relaxed right after I introduced myself. Whatever you're looking for isn't named Seta Souji, at least."
Maybe he was overreacting. Souji seemed smart. He probably wasn't being careful enough. He needed to watch himself. Not reveal anything else. But he had to ask. He still sounded threatening as he spoke, "Does the name 'Bel' mean anything to you?"
Souji didn't immediately reply. K1's expression darkened and he side stepped towards the bench. He didn't want to turn his head away from the curtain. The water continued down in a steady stream, but the spot he'd picked for the COMP was dry. The clothes in the other corner weren't due to how he'd tossed them there, but they weren't important. K1 crouched down and had his right hand wrapped around his unfolded COMP before he heard Souji's voice again.
"Not at all. Sorry I took so long. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't forgetting something. It seems important to you. I want to help."
K1 reached up and wiped the soap dripping bangs out of his face, "You're not involved. We're going our separate ways as soon as I'm done here."
He expected some form of objection from the other teenager, but none came. He scowled and wrapped his COMP again, this time leaving a corner exposed in case he needed to grab it quickly. He was sure now that Souji was prying. Trust no one, I'll be there as soon as I can. How much longer was Naoya going to take to follow him?